Is one of the freakiest movies.
I have ever seen.
In my entire.
The remake of Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead finds drug-addicted Mia (Jane Levy) attempting to kick her habit with the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). To help her go cold turkey, they journey to a cabin deep in the woods to hole up for as long as it takes for Mia to come out on the other side of her withdrawals. When venturing into the cellar to discover the source of a rancid smell, the friends discover the macabre scene of animals strung up on the ceiling with meat hooks, and an ancient book bound in human skin. Surely, reading the book and chanting the ancient prayer within is harmless. Surely, ignoring the blood-red letter screaming “DO NOT READ ME” will do nothing. Surely, these characters have never seen a horror film.
What an achievement in horror filmmaking. Evil Dead hits literally all of the right notes; while the script is average, it is the direction by Fede Alvarez that really sets it apart. The pacing is magnificent, starting slowly and then ramping up with escalating gore and terror. It’s worth noting, as well, that the acting is generally quite good here. Jane Levy, for her part, is outstanding; she really sells the role of panic-stricken junkie-cum-possessed, self-mutilating demon.
A mark of a truly great horror film, for me, is that the jump scares feel “earned.” A cheap jump scare simply throws things at the audience; an earned jump scare feels natural and organic to the film itself, sliding neatly into the film, and not depending on a sudden explosion of noise to be effective. The few jump scares in the movie are truly earned.
And sometimes there’s just some generally freaky shit.
Evil Dead is at the top of the heap when it comes to film and sound editing. Aesthetically and aurally, it excels, even down to the slick shot transitions and wailing, spine-tingling soundtrack. Director Fede Alvarez, in his feature film debut, makes a multitude of unique and fascinating decisions when it comes to framing a shot, all of which pay off to make for some highly unsettling cinematography. Alvarez also mimics one of the main techniques of the original film, giving us the demon’s perspective as it races through the woods.
Speaking of the original, the movie does sprinkle homages to that film throughout the remake, though they are done artfully and generally pretty subtly. The 2013 Evil Dead also refrains from most of the camp of the original, though there is a great running joke involving David attempting to use duct tape to patch up the wounds of his friends. Much of the laughter rippling through the theater was either a defense mechanism against the rising tension, or a genuine response to a brief, welcome comedic beat (few and far between as those were).
Lots and lots of nervous laughter…
And oh, that gore! Alvarez and his crew opted to use as little CGI as possible in the film, and while there are a couple of areas where it appears CGI was used, these instances can be counted on one hand. The gore effects themselves were all done practically, and are all incredibly nasty. There’s a tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness to the gore, with the highest points featuring absolutely stomach-churning gore moments. Clips of the film have been released prior to the movie’s debut. None of those feature some of the nastiest bits. It’s almost cartoonish at parts, with the gore ramping up with the tension until it’s at a fever pitch, as if trying to see how far the audience will go before breaking.
Is Evil Dead scary? No, not really. But it is intense—extremely intense. When it’s driving the action, horror, and gore, it’s insane. When it’s in its quieter moments, it’s merely tense enough to set up the next big, nasty setpiece. And it’s all so damn good.
Evil Dead is a different sort of film than its brother. It’s not a straight remake, instead going for a slight reimagining of the concept. It’s no less of a film, either. This is a new iteration of a classic franchise, utilizing the DNA of the original film to give a different spin on the classic. By establishing itself with its own identity, Evil Dead not only sets the standard for horror remakes, it also carves out its own space in the genre as a new classic. This is how things should be done. This is a true horror movie.
Take a Drink: every time David busts out the duct tape.
Do a Shot: whenever blood sprays on someone’s face.
Take a Drink: each time Eric sustains a wound that should kill him but doesn’t.
Take a Drink: every time a door closes or opens on its own.
Do a Shot: for every reference to the original film.
Stick around after the credits for some further nastiness!